By Lola Blaser
For The Catholic Messenger
(Editor’s note: Lola Blaser, a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt, wrote the following tribute to her colleague, the late Loretta Pennock.)
She left us quietly in the night, I’m sure, so as not to disturb anyone. Little did she know our world was turned upside down. She left us on All Saints’ Day, I’m sure, to join the party. But on this particular All Saints’ Day, she was the only saint we had on our minds. She left us with an unforgettable joy, for which I’m sure she would take no credit. Little did she know of all the people who loved that joy!
Mrs. Loretta Pennock touched so many lives. With her sudden passing Nov. 1, 2021, there is a lingering shock in the St. Joseph School community. Although we will never know why, we have the assurance that we will see her again. Until then, how do we honor the beautiful, faith-filled, loving person we miss? One way is to keep her joy alive and pass it on to everyone we meet. That joy was the result of her deep faith in God and the way she used the gifts of faith, hope and love.
Mrs. Pennock was a person of incredible faith. She was a lifelong member of St. Joseph Parish where she received all her sacraments. She joined the St. Joe’s School family in 1993 when she began teaching first grade and was known to say she never worked a day in her life! It was her happy spot because she had a “knack” for first grade. She often attended daily Mass and was a person of prayer. She passed that on to all her students. They all know when they hear a siren to pray “JMJ, bless them on their way,” and she blessed them at the end of every day with a spritz of holy water to send them on their way. When the first-graders were Mass ministers, they celebrated with donut holes afterward. They were reminded constantly of Jesus’ love for them.
She shared that faith with her family. Her own children were her students, attending St. Joe’s through eighth grade. She often saved a pew for her son Elliot’s family, which included a granddaughter in kindergarten and younger twins. She loved that her daughter, Amanda, was married at St. Joe’s, and her youngest son, Jesse, is now planning his wedding.
Loretta was a person of hope. A cancer survivor since 1997, she maintained hope for herself and others. She struggled with technology in school (like so many of us) but kept learning (and laughing) and kept eternal hope alive! She leaned on her fellow teachers, who loved to be with her no matter the reason. She continued to have hope for the students of each of her 28 first-grade classes and never really said goodbye to them. Whenever she had the opportunity, she would catch up with their sports, academics, families or careers.
Love came so naturally for her. She fiercely loved her students, families, fellow teachers, staff, parishioners and community. Loretta made time for everyone. She had a calming, reassuring demeanor no matter what. She kept treats on hand for those who helped her in any way. She delivered comforting meals to families who were hurting. She loved the repurposed claw-foot bathtub in her classroom filled with soft pillows for a comfy place to read. She loved Catholic Schools Week. She often arranged for the entire school to see movies at the DeWitt Operahouse four blocks from school for Catholic Schools Week. She was a great hugger who always had a hug ready! She loved in the way we think of Jesus loving us. She leaves us with a hole in our hearts and an emptiness in part of our days. We will continue to love and miss her. We will honor her memory with our own acts of faith, hope and love.
You have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. You have kept the faith (based on 2 Timothy 4:7). May you rest in peace.